Every little girl should have a chance to stomp. Emmy Grimm, known onstage as “La Emi,” has been dancing flamenco since she was 3. Her mentor is Maria Benitez, an internationally known powerhouse of a dancer, now retired from the stage, who has been passing along the torch to a group of girls who have been studying with her in Santa Fe their whole lives. Emmy, in her early 20’s, is now a professional. She’s been to study in Spain. She has a flamenco name. And she is booking her own gigs at alternative spaces in Santa Fe, like the bar/nightclub “Skylight,” where she appeared on September 11. When she brought out a group of her own students for a “tientos/tango,” including one young flamenco dancer who couldn’t have been older than 8, it was like watching the generations pass in front of you.
Emmy shared the stage with Eliza Llewellyn, who was clearly enjoying a break-out moment after spending the summer backing up Juan Siddi at his company’s engagements at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Grimm spent her summer as one of the dancers with Antonio Granjero, at a tourist-oriented hotel tablao in Santa Fe where Maria Benitez used to entertain. Llewellyn also performs with flamenco groups in New York and San Francisco, and has the gypsy looks and fire that comes with some maturity. Grimm has a sweetness and femininity about her that is refreshing in a form so often associated with angst and intensity. Without a single male dancer on stage at “Skylight,” the girl-power on display was both sexy and liberated. No one was backing up the “star.” They were the stars.
The singer Vicente Griego is a New Mexico native, but he has the lungs of Pavarotti, and the ability to yowl like a full-blooded gypsy. He also studied in Spain, and has been working all summer with the brother and sister act, Marisol and Joaquin Encinias and their group from the National Institute of Flamenco (in Albuquerque) who were performing at “El Farol,” a Spanish restaurant on Canyon Road. What a flamenco town Santa Fe has become!
Griego is actually Grimm’s godfather, and his massive physical presence on a postage stamp stage added a fatherly grounding to the evening. His songs were blasts of emotion and guttural release. Along with the unassuming but virtuosic guitar-playing by Joaquin Gallegos, another artist making a living in the local flamenco subculture, it was like a debutante’s ball—the musicians escorting their young progeny into the world of adulthood—flamenco style.
For someone so young, Grimm is already an artist with generosity. She offered Llewellyn a chance to perform the “allegrias,”, and she invited dancers up from the audience to close the first act in a “sevillana.” There was only one solo she gave herself all night, a “guajira,” a flamenco cante with Cuban roots. Leaning way, way back, sitting on a chair and fanning herself , you could practically feel the Caribbean humidity.
For Grimm, it is a wise thing to keep things lighter, more girlish. There will be much, much time to learn, perform and understand the dark-side of flamenco. Grimm offered a refreshingly joyous, one-night-only opportunity for a community of flamenco dancers and musicians to take-over “Skylight,” a disco and live music venue in Santa Fe. Bravo.
By Michael Wade Simpson photo credit Morgan Smith